Story: Huggan, Joseph Mitchell and Huggan, Lily Annie

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Huggan, Joseph Mitchell

1897–1957

Textile workers, storekeepers, community leaders, local politicians

Huggan, Lily Annie

1890–1983

Textile workers, storekeepers, community leaders, local politicians

This biography, written by Hilda McDonnell, was first published in 2000.

Lily Annie Brown was born at Halifax, Yorkshire, England, on 10 March 1890 to John Henry Brown, a cabinet maker, and his wife, Rebecca Grundy Morton. She was educated in Brighouse and Huddersfield and after leaving school spent 20 years in the local textile mills. A ‘percher’ inspecting cloth, she headed the finishing department for some years.

In December 1922 Annie, her parents and an older, married brother emigrated to Wellington. At St Hilda’s Church, Upper Hutt, on 14 July 1923, Annie married Joseph Mitchell Huggan, the son of Jonathan Huggan, a stonemason, and his wife, Hannah Mitchell. Born in Pudsey, Yorkshire, on 16 June 1897, he had emigrated to New Zealand after serving in France with the West Yorkshire Regiment. He and Annie were to have no children.

Annie and Joe Huggan worked for a time at the woollen mill at Petone. By 1924 they had moved from Upper Hutt to Korokoro, where Joe worked as a labourer. By 1932 Joe and Annie had begun to run the Korokoro general store, which at first was housed in the front room of their home. Joe had a vehicle and delivered. Joe’s parents came to live with them, and in 1933 he bought the 4½ acres behind the store and built them a bach. The store later became a post office as well, and Annie Huggan established a business for the invisible mending of garments.

During the depression Joe Huggan did good work among the unemployed, and through the local relief committee Annie supplied morning and afternoon teas and lunches to relief workers. In wet weather, 20 men would sit in the shed behind their store. Joe and Annie Huggan became uncrowned ‘mayor and mayoress of Korokoro’, and were involved with the local school and tennis club (from 1946 there was a Huggan Cup). Joe was president of the new Korokoro Progressive League (also known as the Korokoro Progressive Association) which in November 1931 got a bus service started. To allay the effects of the depression, in 1934 and 1935 the league organised summer carnivals. Annie and her mother-in-law were on the carnival committee, and Annie trained girls at the school to give an exhibition of maypole dancing. In April 1934 she won prizes in the league’s horticultural show. She was league secretary from August 1935 until the 1950s.

Joe Huggan became a justice of the peace in 1932. He was also on the Korokoro Committee of the Petone Borough Council. In May 1935 he was elected to the council on the New Zealand Labour Party ticket and in November 1950 was elected mayor. The couple shifted to Cuba Street, Petone, along with an elderly uncle of Annie’s. Joe was twice returned unopposed as mayor, heading all-Labour councils, and was also on the fire board, the milk board and the Hutt Valley drainage, power and river boards. Annie became patron of many local organisations. In a gesture that typified the Huggans’ sense of fun, Annie was presented with a brooch to make up for the times her husband had been late home from night meetings. From 1940 they began keeping open house on New Year’s Eve: ‘No-one was ever invited but everyone came’.

On 6 September 1957, Joe Huggan died after a short illness. The local Labour Party asked Annie to stand for the mayoralty, and she was returned in an uncontested election. She presided over the nine-member council, chaired the same council committees as her husband had and was the council’s representative on the State Advances Corporation of New Zealand’s Hutt Valley housing allocation committee and the Hutt Park committee. Like her husband, she fiercely opposed amalgamation with Lower Hutt.

The opening of a long-planned refuse tip adjacent to a scenic reserve in the western hills in 1964 upset residents and lovers of native bush. At the October 1965 election Annie, now 75, stood as an independent but lost to Ralph Love, who had succeeded her as the Labour Party candidate.

She remained active, chairing the Hutt Valley Patriotic Welfare Committee in the early 1970s and maintaining her invisible-mending business until late in life. In 1971 she was made an MBE. Annie Huggan died on 4 May 1983 at the Bloomfield Hospice, Lower Hutt, aged 93.

How to cite this page:

Hilda McDonnell. 'Huggan, Joseph Mitchell and Huggan, Lily Annie', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5h40/huggan-joseph-mitchell (accessed 24 October 2019)